Europa League – Ajax vs Marseille 

Without a doubt, the clash between Ajax and Marseille is worthy of the Champions League, but this year, we’ll be seeing the former European champions and dominant football clubs from the 90s in the Europa League.

Ajax has had an uncertain start to the season and currently sits in 12th place in the Dutch league after playing four matches. They came dangerously close to missing out on the Europa League altogether. They suffered a 1-0 defeat at home to Ludogorets, but triumphed convincingly with a 4-1 win in Bulgaria. It seems that their new coach, Maurice Steijn, is still struggling to get his team on a right track. Perhaps the match in Bulgaria is a true indicator that Ajax can achieve more than what they’ve shown, and they will be highly motivated to start their European odyssey with a victory. Against French clubs, the Dutch have a mixed record, with 15 wins out of a total of 30 matches played.

In contrast to their opponents, Marseille has had a much better start to the season. After five matches, they find themselves in 4th place without a single loss but with three draws and a goal difference of 7:4. Marseille also came close to not being part of the Europa League. In the final qualification round for the group stage, they defeated Panathinaikos after a penalty shootout. It seems that their new coach, Marcelino, is gradually shaping the team and their style of play according to his preferences, and the duel against Ajax will be a good test to see if they are capable for big results. In their three previous away matches, Marseille did not manage to secure a victory. They were defeated by Panathinaikos in Athens, 0-1, and drew with Metz, 2-2, and Nantes, 1-1, in the domestic league.

In their last head-to-head encounter in the Round of 16 of the Europa League in 2009, Marseille emerged victorious over Ajax with an aggregate score of 4-3. Prior to that, they had only met in 1971 in the European Champions Cup, with Ajax winning both times, 4-1 and 2-1.

The burden of favoritism still belongs to Ajax, mainly because Marseille has not performed well in away matches this season, despite their players being in better form than their rivals. Ajax has only secured one victory in the league so far, at home against Heracles with a score of 4-1. A narrow Ajax victory with a one-goal margin and at least one goal scored by Marseille seems like the most realistic outcome.

It’s a clash of former European champions, this time in the Europa League.

written by: Mladen Radosavljevic